About Italy

Living in Europe | Access to the culture of the host country/language courses | Italy

Here follows in brief some information about Italy, its political system, economy, history, people and also some curiosities. 
Italy is also known and called "il Bel Paese",  term originated in the Middle Ages and seemed to be used by Dante and Petrarca, for its mild weather, natural landscapes and cultural heritage. Italy hosts the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any other country listed on the World Heritage List.



Type: A republic since 2 June 1946.
Constitution: 1 January 1948.
Subdivisions: 110 provinces, 20 regions.

Italy has a capitalist economy with high gross domestic product (GDP) per capital and developed infrastructure.
It has the fifth-highest population density in Europe - about 200 persons per square kilometer (490 per square mile). Minority groups are small, the largest being the German-speaking community of the Province of Bolzano and the Slovenes near to Trieste. There are also small communities of Albanian, Greek, Ladino and French origins. The country joined the European Monetary Union in 1998.

Did You know that...

  • Italy was a founding member of the European Community?
  • Italy hosts two independent states: the Vatican City and the Republic of San Marino?
  • Italy hosts different ethnic groups, including groups of Albanians and Greeks?
  • There have been nineteen Italian Nobel Prize winners?
  • Italy is called il Belpaese (Italian for ‘beautiful country’) by its inhabitants because of the beauty and variety of its landscapes and because it has the largest artistic heritage in the world?
  • The history of Italian cinema began just a few months after the Lumière brothers discovered the medium when Pope Leo XIII was filmed for a few seconds in the act of blessing a camera?

Italy is in the Central European Time Zone (CET). It is 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+1). Summertime (in Italian ora legale) is observed in Italy as in most European countries from 1996.

The national currency is the Euro.

Public holidays

  • 1 January Capodanno New Year’s Eve
  • 6 January Epifania Epiphany
  • Pasqua Easter *
  • Lunedì dell'Angelo Easter Monday *
  • 25 April Festa della Liberazione Liberation Day
  • 1 May Festa dei lavoratori Labour Day
  • 2 June Festa della Repubblica Republic Day
  • 15 August Ferragosto Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • 1 November Ognissanti All Saints’ Day
  • 8 December Immacolata Concezione Immaculate Conception
  • 25 December Natale Christmas
  • 26 December Santo Stefano Saint Stephen Day

*Easter takes place every year on Sundays on different dates between March/April, and it is always followed by Easter Monday.

Emergency number

For any kind of emergency dial 112, the European emergency phone number.


Electricity in Italy, as in the rest of Europe, comes out of the wall socket at 220 volts alternating at a 50 cycles per second (in the US, electricity comes out of the wall socket at 110 volts, alternating at 60 cycles per second). Plugs and sockets are European standard but, in some cases, you may need an adaptor for Italian plugs Type L.


Bank opening hours vary according to the bank and the town, usually the day before a bank holiday, banks are often closed in the afternoon. The current account (conto corrente) conditions vary depending on the bank, usually no fees are charged when you withdraw cash from your own bank's ATM as well as when paying in shops within the country.
To open a bank account citizens will be asked to submit

  • passport or valid ID;
  • Italian Tax Identification Code (Codice Fiscale);
  • proof of a legal address in Italy (i.e. utility bills);
  • an Italian mobile phone number;
  • residence certificate (or valid permit of stay) and proof of employment in Italy (work contract or payslip).


Different conditions apply to EU-EEA or Non EU-EEA citizens:

  • EU-EEA citizen can freely drive in Italy as long as the driving license remains valid. At least one month before it expires citizens must contact the Motorizzazione Civile and apply for recognition.
  • Non EU-EEA citizens coming from those countries that have reciprocal agreements with Italy can drive in Italy with their own driving license within one year after becoming resident in Italy. After this period they need to exchange (Conversione) their driving license.
  • Non EU- EEA citizens belonging to countries without reciprocal agreement with Italy need to apply for a new Italian driving licence which means they have to take both the practice and theory examinations.
  • Non EU-EEA citizens wishing to stay in Italy without moving their residency are required to hold the International Driving Permit (IDP), accompanied by their own driving licence.